Special needs children in school nurseries less likely to get reception place

Children with special educational needs who are attending primary school nurseries are significantly less likely to get a place in the school's reception class than their peers.

A report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has found that certain schools discourage the admission of preschool little ones with complex needs.

The academics are suggesting that funding cuts and accountability pressures are the reasons behind these schools admitting less pupils.

Over a quarter of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) attend different primary schools than the one they attended nursery school in.

This is compared to 18 percent of children with no recorded SEND. The Nuffield Foundation charity funded the report, and said that this vulnerable group “does not benefit from being able to transition smoothly into reception class with a high continuity of peers."

Evidence has been found that schools play a part in encouraging the students to move elsewhere, according to researchers.

The study also discovered that a quarter of Black Caribbean children who attend a school nursery move for primary school, in comparison to 17 per cent of White British children. 

The researchers recommend that local authorities are given the tools to focus on transitions between schools for children with SEND statements and specific minority ethnic groups.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Tammy Campbell, said: “It’s very possible that continuity of transition for children with special educational needs and disabilities has become even less stable in the most recent years.

“Funding cuts combined with target-based school accountability measures mean that schools are disincentivised from admitting these pupils.”

The report surveyed over half a million children who became eligible for free early education between January 2010 and September 2010.

It found that children born in the summer are less likely to attend a school nursery, and are more likely to enter primary school without knowing any peers from pre-school. 

Lead author and associate director of the centre for analysis of social exclusion at LSE, Dr Kitty Stewart, said:

“There are aspects of the way early education policy is currently working that are increasing rather than narrowing inequalities between children."

She added; “Government urgently needs to review its provision with a sharper focus on ensuring that all children get the best start in life.”

The primary specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Tiffnie Harris, stated:

“A nursery child with complex needs may sometimes not go into the corresponding primary school because they require a higher level of specialist support than the primary school can provide, and in these cases other provision where they can access this support is a better option.

"Primary schools are doing their very best for all their children in extremely challenging circumstances of inadequate funding and widespread recruitment problems which make it increasingly difficult to provide specialist support."

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